Monday, August 23, 2010

Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia adds art education master's to train teachers to work with disabled children

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

The disclosure was eye-opening to Philadelphia School District art teacher Alisha Hagelin. An 11th grader with emotional behavior problems matter-of-factly told her: "In art class, I take my anger out on the art. And in the other class, I don't have anything, so I take it out on the teacher."

Hagelin, a graduate student at Moore College of Art and Design and the art teacher at Germantown High School last year, was interviewing the student for her thesis project.

"I already believed that art helps kids with emotional behavioral disturbance," she said. "My research study proved that."

Hagelin is enrolled in a new program at the city art college for a master's degree in art education with an emphasis on students with special needs, both physical and emotional.

When Moore began designing the program in 2006, it could not find any other like it in the country on which to model its curriculum, said Lynne Horoschak, program manager and a former Philadelphia public school art teacher.

"We are not a master's of arts in special education. We are not art therapy. We are art educators focusing on students with disabilities," Horoschak said of the program, which began in summer 2009.

She said art teachers have long known the importance of using art - an inherently hands-on subject - to reach students who struggle to learn. The Moore program specializes in helping practicing art teachers hone their craft and collaborate with educators in other disciplines.

"We can make an impact on education through the arts," Horoschak said.

Six students will become the first graduates of the program this month. Another six are part of a new class that began the program this summer.

Cynthia Hartopp, an art teacher at East Stroudsburg North High School, said she became the first teacher in her district last year to include students with autism into her classroom.

"It was amazing," said Hartopp, who used what she was learning at Moore to guide her. "The kids grew in ways I never thought possible. They came in to the classroom and wouldn't make eye contact or socialize. By the end, they had friends they sat with and had discussions and interacted with everybody."

Tricia Hutman, an art teacher at Trenton Catholic Academy, a high school, collaborated with English and math colleagues. In English, students illustrated poems, and in math, they created scale models of tree houses.

Most of her students were not labeled as special needs, but as inner city students, they came to school requiring special attention, she said.

Hutman described one student who kept his head down until it came time to build the tree house model.

"Once he had the wood in his hand," she said, "he did it."

The 15-month master's program includes a class on how to reach students with limited English skills, a technology course, an independent studio art course, and a legal course, among other topics.

Students must have had 43.5 art credits as an undergraduate to enroll.

Erin Harrington, who taught at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School last year and will move to a different, yet to be determined, city school in the fall, said she planned to use more technology with students.

"I want to be a more effective teacher so students are so excited about what they're learning, that there are fewer behavior problems," she said.

On Thursday, the graduate students heard from guest speaker Sue Tuckerman (pictured), mother of autistic twins Eddie and Mike, who are going into sixth grade at Philadelphia Academy Charter School. Tuckerman said she had the same hopes for Eddie and Mike as she did for her son Timmy, 10.

"It's my job to make sure my kids have every chance to do what they need to do. I need schools and services to help me do that," she said.

Later, Tuckerman said she was pleased to see Moore focus on how best to reach students with special needs through art. Her sons are motivated by art, she said.

"We've tried them in many different programs," she said, "and the art program is the only one that really stuck with them."